Baldrick wants a reunion but can’t afford a House

Original story: Daily Express

TONY ROBINSON has revealed he wants to make a new Blackadder series but there’s a drawback: “We can’t afford Hugh Laurie’s salary.”

The 65-year-old actor, who played Baldrick in the TV comedy for six years during the Eighties, told Day & Night that he has been longing for another stab at the show and is confident that creator and lead star Rowan Atkinson fancies reuniting.

“Yes I would but I don’t think we’d be able to afford Hugh Laurie’s salary do you?” he told us at the Chortle awards this week. “Rowan’s said he’d be up for it. The story always was that we’d do one where Rowan, aka Blackadder, was the bastard son of Queen Elizabeth II who used to hang around the King’s Road in the Sixties and had his own rock band including a drummer with no hair called Bald Rick. If ever that happened I’d certainly be up for that.”

Robinson says he was riddled with self-doubt when making the series but now can see its worth as a British comedy great.

“I always used to beat myself up because I thought I was terrible and it was terrible. Just occasionally I’ll catch a glimpse of it on TV and think, ‘I’m quite proud of that!’ It’s a nice feeling to have.”

However the Time Team host adds: “Every decade people say, ‘Comedy isn’t what it used to be’ and I think that’s totally disproved. The amount of good work on TV is fantastic.”

Baldrick’s Cunning Plan For A Movie

Source: PA

Tony Robinson hopes all the Blackadder team can reunite on the big screen.

The Time Team presenter starred alongside Rowan Atkinson in Richard Curtis and Ben Elton’s comedy Blackadder for four series and two special episodes as “I have a cunning plan” sidekick Baldrick. And he is keen to be a part of a movie spin-off.

Tony said: “I think we’d do much better making a Blackadder movie, even if it was relatively low budget, than going back to a TV series.

“If we made a TV series, everyone would just compare it with the other TV series, whereas if we moved to a different kind of canvas then there’s a chance that people might be prepared to judge it on what it is rather than compare it with something we did 20 years ago.”

And Rowan recently revealed that it “wasn’t impossible” that he would ever reprise his role as Blackadder.
Tony said: “Yes it’s funny, Rowan seems to have changed his tune a little bit during the interviews for Johnny English, which is great.”

He added: “I’ve always said I’d be happy to do another series – and my bank manager would certainly be incredibly enthusiastic about me doing another series.

“But I think a lot of the others have always been very diffident simply because we’ve all got so much on. It was very difficult to get us all together to do Blackadder Back And Forth which we did in 1999 for the Millennium Dome.

“But if Rowan is beginning to think a bit more fondly about doing something, then maybe Richard [Curtis] and Ben [Elton] will as well.”

Britain’s Best Sitcom added

Back in 2004, the BBC broadcast a series that wanted to find ‘Britain’s Best Sitcom’. The British public voted by phone and text during 2003 to decide on the top 100. With the results in, the top 10 were produced and a celebrity advocate of a sitcom was chosen to put their case to the public to ultimately decide on what would be the greatest sitcom.

John Sergeant states why ‘Blackadder’ is his favourite sitcom.

You can read his statement and watch the episode here.

Audio Commentaries Added

One of the things I’ve been wanting to get on the site is the audio commentary tracks from the Blackadder Remastered DVD collection. Well, I’ve finally gotten round to popping snippets on to the web. I’ve only included the first 3 minutes from each track; if you want to listen to the complete recording, you’re going to have to buy the DVDs.

If you click on the series headers above, you’ll see an ‘Audio’ sub-category – click on that to listen to the audio tracks for that chosen series.

No new Blackadder

In a recent interview, Rowan has confirmed that there will be no new Blackadder; something I very much suspected would be the case.

On this Rowan said “I made the mistake in Britain to say that it might be a good idea. Now everyone thinks it is going to happen but it is not,” he admitted. “Everyone is much too busy with their own other stuff. And besides that I always believed that ‘Blackadder’ was a comedy consensus of a group of creative people in a certain period of their lives.

“If you put these people in the same room again 20 years later that consensus has changed.”

So there you have it.

Rowan Atkinson to return to the stage

Original story: BBC News.co.uk

Rowan Atkinson is returning to the stage after the success of his role as Fagin in the West End musical Oliver!

The Blackadder star told the BBC he would appear in a play in late 2012.

“I love theatre, I hadn’t done it for 20 years before I did Fagin and I was surprised how comfortable I felt on stage,” he said.

“I would like to do more and I think that’s the next thing I do.” He said he would appear in a “fairly straight, straightforward” stage play.

Blackadder cast reunite for Dickensian BBC Comedy

Filming has started on BBC Two’s new comedy The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff which will feature Stephen Fry and Tim McInnerny. Beginning with a one-hour Christmas special followed by three 30-minute episodes shown in early 2012, Stephen will portray evil lawyer Malifax Skulkingworm.

Other fine British comic actors appearing in the series include Robert Webb and David Mitchell along with Celia Imrie, Pauline McLynn and Katherine Parkinson.

Blackadder Goes Forth to the West End

A week in the life of Rowan Atkinson. On Christmas Day, he and his wife Sunetra slipped quietly into a school in Kennington, south London, to bring some cheer to 2,000 troubled children brought together by the charity Kids Company. The comedian’s eyes welled up with tears, said one witness.

That night, Atkinson was interviewed for a BBC1 documentary celebrating 25 years of the comedy classic Blackadder. Looking ill at ease in the role of Rowan Atkinson, he made the surprising disclosure that there was at least one episode of Blackadder Goes Forth he had never seen until he happened to find it on his in-flight entertainment. “I’m not a great laugher, sadly,” he admitted, “but I might have sniggered at it, which was my way of saying that was very funny.”

And yesterday he was due on stage for two preview performances of the musical Oliver!, produced by Cameron Mackintosh at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It is testimony to his status as king of British comedy that, with little pedigree of stage acting and less singing, he is set to become the biggest attraction in London’s West End as the Jewish miser, Fagin. Unlike Alec Guinness in the controversial 1948 screen adaptation of Oliver Twist, Atkinson does not wear a prosthetic nose.

“I think the thing people will be most surprised about is the complexity of the character,” Rupert Goold, the production’s director, told the Observer. “I’m sure they expect him to be funny, but he’s delivered something that is really complex. Like Shylock, it’s one of those parts that you’d have a problematic relationship with because it’s been used as a rod to beat Jewish identity with. You can’t shy away from that. In the last preview I saw, Rowan had lost a little bit of his Jewish accent and I wanted that to come back because I don’t think it is an unsympathetic portrayal.”

Seldom has a performer been as inscrutably determined as Atkinson to let his work do the talking. An appearance on ITV1’s This Morning sofa became tortuous whenever the actor was asked a remotely personal question. He once refused to tell a journalist how many children he has. On another occasion, the Observer approached him at a party with an innocuous question about Blackadder; after an excruciatingly long pause, he replied: “No comment.” Even on Blue Peter, he appeared as Mr Bean rather than himself. His private persona, says Goold, is sometimes “like a ghost”.

Another Blackadder documentary, on the G.O.L.D. channel earlier this year, featured interviews with its writers Richard Curtis and Ben Elton and cast members including Robinson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tim McInnerny and Miranda Richardson. All the old gang, in fact, except Atkinson.

Why the reticence? The evidence suggests that there is no great enigma, no great cliche about inner turmoil and the tears of a clown. Atkinson, who turns 54 next week, simply seems to lack the showbiz gene. He has a private hinterland of fast cars and family and the key to his brilliance may be that he sees it as nothing more and nothing less than a job. Goold added: “He’s got something that’s really important in comedy, which is taste, partly because he’s a very self-contained private man, so you don’t feel he’s somebody who’s desperate for a laugh. You get the sense that he would have the greatest 12 year old boy gift ideas.

‘Some comedians are so eager to have you love them that they’ll push that to the nth degree, whatever that takes, whereas with Rowan you feel he enjoys it like he enjoys the purr of the engine of one of his beloved cars. It’s a personal experience for him and that means he’s indifferent to vulgarity and cheap laughs.”

Tony Robinson, whose Baldrick tormented Blackadder with every “cunning plan”, echoes the sentiment. “He’s one of the few mega performers who genuinely has a full and fulfilling life away from showbusiness,” he said last week. “In my experience, I can’t tell you how rare that is. He has a beautiful wife and family and good on him. Yet he remains for me the consummate comedy performer of his generation.”

Robinson added: “He’s a very shy man, so it’s not like the first time that you meet someone such as Rik Mayall or Mel Smith where you’ve overwhelmed by the force of their personality. When he’s not working, you are unlikely to realise that he’s in the room, but as soon as he starts, all attention focuses on him, partly because of this extraordinary supreme talent that he’s got.”

Performing was not in his blood. Atkinson was the third son growing up on a 400-acre farm and attended Durham’s Chorister School aged 11, where he was teased by fellow pupils who thought he looked like an alien. Two years above him was Tony Blair, described by the school’s headmaster as “outgoing” compared with Atkinson, who was “shy with a slight stutter”. He went to Newcastle University and studied engineering, before arriving at Queen’s College, Oxford, for an MSc in engineering science.

When he turned up at the Oxford sketch writing group, he reminded fellow student Richard Curtis of a cushion: sitting on a chair and saying nothing. Curtis recalled: “I thought he was a stuffed toy because he didn’t say anything for the first three meetings – just a curiously shaped object in the corner. Then just when we were trying to decide what the material should be, and we’d all been handing in sketches for months, Rowan actually stood up and did two absolutely astonishing sketches.”

Atkinson dazzled at the Edinburgh Festival and toured with Angus Deayton as his straight man. At Amnesty International’s benefit, The Secret Policeman’s Ball, in 1979 he performed a hilarious sketch as a headmaster addressing a room of schoolboys. He then joined Mel Smith, Griff Rhys Jones and Pamela Stephenson in the vanguard of alternative comedy, the sketch series Not the Nine O’Clock News. Two years later, he became the youngest performer to have a one-man show in the West End.

Then came four series as Edmund Blackadder in the sprawling comical chronicle of English history now regarded as a gold-plated classic, ranking with or even surpassing Dad’s Army and Fawlty Towers. By the final series, set in the First World War trenches, Atkinson found in the character a cynical antihero worthy of Catch-22’s Yossarian. The climax touched greatness with Blackadder pretending to be mad in a failed bid to get out of the maddest situation in history.

“I just remember feeling the impending doom over my character,” Atkinson said. “I remember feeling this strange knot in the pit of my stomach. It was the first time as an actor that I had felt the predicament of my character. I was going to die at the end of the week.”

It has since been observed that the world is divided into two irreconcilable schools: fans of Blackadder and fans of Atkinson’s next manifestation, Mr Bean. The former, which started on BBC2, was Oxbridge satire with clever wordplay in the tradition of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and Monty Python. The latter, on ITV, was physical humour with minimal dialogue in the tradition of Benny Hill. It has shown a similar ability to cross cultural boundaries, gaining audiences in a hundred countries. The 1997 film version, Bean, took £152m to become the most lucrative British film of all time and was followed by Mr Bean’s Holiday last year.

Atkinson, whose Eurosceptic brother Rodney is a former UK Independence Party candidate, made a rare foray into politics when he campaigned successfully against the government’s proposals to outlaw “incitement to religious hatred”, arguing that they would in effect criminalise the telling of Catholic, Jewish or Muslim jokes. He has had a mild flop, with the BBC TV series The Thin Blue Line and made several Hollywood appearances, although he once opined that the only film he was really proud of being in was Four Weddings and a Funeral

His 15 per cent stake in the film and TV company Tiger Aspect has helped generated a personal fortune estimated at anywhere from £65m to £100m. On a typical day, he is likely to be relaxing at his Chelsea townhouse or driving go-karts round the tennis court of his country pile, a former rectory in the Oxfordshire village of Waterperry.

The actor’s great extravagance is collecting vintage cars and driving them at events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed. John Lloyd, his long-time producer, once summed Atkinson up thus: “He is certainly not a workaholic. He once said to me that he wasn’t bothered about going into showbusiness, but it was the only way he could find of affording the cars he wanted. I think that’s why, in interviews, he doesn’t think his private life is anybody’s business. There’s no article to be written airing his dirty laundry. He’s just a blameless family guy.”

So don’t expect Atkinson to treat the first-night reviews of Oliver!, including his ability to sing “You’ve got to pick-a-pocket or two, boys” eight times a week, as a matter of life and death. But equally, expect something special from a man who, like the best of wits, has nothing to declare but his genius.

The Atkinson Lowdown

Born: Rowan Sebastian Atkinson in Gosforth, near Newcastle, on 6 January 1955, the youngest of three sons of farmers Eric and Ella Atkinson. He married Sunestra Sastry, a make-up artist on Blackadder, at the Russian Tea Room in New York in 1990; they have two children, Lily and Benjamin.

Best of times: Critically, Blackadder, in which Atkinson coined immortal comic lines such as: “He’s madder than Mad Jack McMad, the winner of last year’s Mr Madman Competition.” Commercially, Mr Bean, in which his rubber face and elastic body earned comparisons with Chaplin, Keaton and Laurel.

Worst of times: A 1986 attempt to crack Broadway ended three weeks after New York Times critic Frank Rich condemned his “toilet humour”. In 2001, the pilot of a Cessna plane in which Atkinson and his family were flying from Mombasa to Nairobi passed out, but Atkinson took the controls and saved the day.

What he says: “Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing in showbusiness. It’s as though I wandered in accidentally and there’s no way out. People who meet me think, ‘What a miserable git.’”

What they say: “Rowan has not one ounce of showbiz in his life. It is as if God had an extra jar of comic talent and for a joke gave it to a nerdy, anoraked northern chemist.” Stephen Fry, Blackadder co-star and best man at Atkinson’s wedding.

Source: Guardian Unlimited

Blackadder Rides Again for Christmas

As mentioned by me some time ago, Blackadder will be making a return to BBC1 this Christmas, albeit in a documentary celebrating 25 years. The programme will be called “Blackadder Rides Again” – a title which will no doubt confuse viewers; leading them to think that its an actual one-off sitcom special and not a documentary. And I can finally reveal that Rowan Atkinson will also appear.

This article has just been published on the Mirror website.

Blackadder is going forth once more this Christmas… with a oneoff special featuring Rowan Atkinson.

Despite it being one of his best-loved roles, Atkinson has pretty much refused to discuss his character.

But in this 60-minute special, to mark 25 years since the first transmission, he gives his first in-depth interview about Edmund Blackadder.

He says: “The role was almost like an MC, with me delegating the job of entertaining to all these amazing entertainers.

“It was like saying ladies and gentlemen, Mr Tony Robinson, ladies and gentlemen Mr Stephen Fry.”

He also reveals that his initial meeting with co-writer Richard Curtis did not bode well.

He says he “sat in the corner saying nothing” while Curtis recalls that Atkinson was “just a curiously shaped object in the corner”.

Atkinson and other stars also speculate on a possible fifth series of Blackadder – and where it would be set.

Rowan says: “The best idea was Colditz.”

Fry suggests “a prisoner of war camp” and Miranda Richardson likes the idea of a cowboy themed series where she could take on a Calamity Jane type role…

A fifth series anywhere would be a result.